Thursday 20 April 2006

Episode 2. Torres del Paine Day 5

What a great day! Each day brings more experiences.

Up early and off up Valle del Francés. Despite a little drizzle - it seems my light pack days are doomed. The views of the Glaciar del Francés on the way up to Camp. Britanico were fantastic surrounded by orange and red autumnal beech forests. Of course, while the Italians chose a nice cosy campsite at the bottom of the valley, the Brits moved on up to an exposed area much further up. The campsite now is rarely used, it seems. Please understand, though, that the only luxury of Camp. Italiano was a flushing toilet. It's a free site with no other facilities other than a roaring river providing delicious fresh water.

Beyond, the view from the mirador was not quite as good as I`d hoped, so I continued up on a vague track marked with the occasional cairn. I scrambled up a steep ravine, eventually reaching an exposed plateau. Up here the wind was blowing very hard bringing snow off the slopes around me. From here I could see all the way down the valley I'd ascended to Lago Nordenskjöld. Around me I could see Paine Grande, Cerro Castillo and the Cuernos del Paine behind me. It was exhilirating feeling the raw power of nature and seeing how it had been molded over millions of years.

After taking a few pics, I descended quickly to Camp. Italiano. I had lunch and decamped, heading a short way to Albergue Los Cuernos. I felt sluggish and decided to take it slowly. In the end I was moving fast. On my way out from the campsite, I met an English couple who looked very familiar but I quickly discarded it as a deja vu. Later I discovered that they'd asked me the way to Grey while I was sitting having lunch at Pehoé. James and Nicky, married and living in Edinburgh, have understanding employers who have given them each 6 weeks off to travel South America.

Rounding Lago Nordenskjöld, I found a beautiful beach with black and white pebbles. The tide had raked it to look like a Japanese garden. The sun was out and I felt warm from the walking. I thought it would be lovely to have a swim. Then I thought, it WOULD be lovely to have a swim. I stripped down to my undies took a couple of steps into the water and dived in. Very cold. Very. This is a glacial lake. The water just above freezing. I got straight out. The temperature change gave me an awesome feeling. I quickly towelled down, put on some fresh undies (mmm), dressed and took a couple of pics.

At Los Cuernos, I didn't have enough cash for a bed and dinner, so I opted to camp and have a 3-course dinner cooked for me. I took a long, hot shower then enjoyed my dinner. Returning to my tent at 10.30pm, the sky was totally cloudless and I could clearly see the stars and the milky way. You just can't see stars like this pretty much anywhere in the UK, with all the light pollution.